By The Colourboard Desk
Around 236 Valmikis from Karhera village of Ghaziabad Uttar Pradesh converted to Buddhism on Wednesday 14th October 2020. The event was organized in the Balmiki Mohalla of Karhera at 5pm yesterday with the prior approval of District magistrate Dr Ajay Shankar Pandey. One member each from 236 families participated in the conversion program under their right secured by the Constitution of India.
Untouchability still prevails in the remote areas of Uttar Pradesh and there is a higher number of caste atrocities happening each day. In Hathras district, on 29th September, a 19 year old girl from the Scheduled Caste Valmiki community was allegedly raped by 4 men from Thakur community which is dominant in the region. The aftermath of this incident started a massive outrage demanding justice for the victim and Ambedkarite people from all over the world showed up on streets to protest against caste atrocities.
The Valmikis of Uttar Pradesh contacted Dr Rajratna Ambedkar, the President of The Buddhist Society of India, to help them leave Hinduism and get refuge in Buddhism. Dr Rajratna Ambedkar met Hathras victim's family to extend solidarity and ensured fact finding of the case. The team of Buddhist Society of India gifted a Buddha's photo frame to the victim's family and explained the importance to come out of Hinduism. Although this family could not be a part of this conversion program, as they are still under high surveillance of police at their place.
On a telephonic interview with The Colourboard, Dr Rajratna Ambedkar told,
"It is important for the Scheduled caste people to break this system of hierarchies by leaving their stigmatised lower position in Hinduism and join the larger strength and identity of being buddhist, which is an internationally recognised identity."
He further added,
"Even when the Prime Minister of India visits any foreign state, he has to identify himself as coming from a Buddhist nation; Buddhist identity gives dignity and strength on the world level."
When asked about people being hesitant to leave their Scheduled Caste status with the fear of losing the reservations, Dr Rajratna said,
“There is no use of this reservation as it is not implemented properly, it remains only on papers and as stigma on the reserved categories, perhaps we must study the privileges given to the minorities in the constitution on India and apply for them, at no cost of compromising with the dignity.”
On the same day in 1956, the historical event of mass conversion to Buddhism from Hinduism took place at Dikshabhoomi, Nagpur under the leadership of Dr B R Ambedkar. It is said to be the biggest mass conversion in the world’s history. During the conversion, the 22 vows were given by Dr. Ambedkar as a crucial process to unlearn the old, discriminatory culture of hinduism. Lakhs of people from the oppressed castes that are considered lower in Hindu varna system and faced inhuman practice of untouchability, embraced Buddhism to join a new path.
Ven. Bhante Nibbano of Delhi gave Dhamma Diksha (ordination), whereas Dr. Rajratna Ambedkar explained the need of leaving Hinduism while giving 22 vows. Certificates of religious conversion were also provided. As per sources, around 2 lakh Valmikis from Uttar Pradesh are planning to accept Buddhism and leave Hinduism on 14th April 2021.